Newbies and patrollers: "Every now and then a nun or a tourist wanders in front of the rifle sights"
Monthly increase in the number of accounts with at least ten edits, January 2006 to December 2010
Last week saw an extensive discussion on the Foundation-l mailing list about the "Friendliness" of Wikimedia projects to new users, a perennial topic that is seeing several new developments currently.
Discussing the effect of using pre-formulated templates to communicate with newbies, the Wikimedia Foundation's Deputy Director Erik Möller (User:Eloquence) suggested a "dedicated community effort to 1) catalogue the most widely used templates on talk pages, 2) systematically improve them with an eye on the impact they can have on whether people feel their work is valued and the environment in which they're contributing is a positive and welcoming one".
The English Wikipedia's new page patrol and its use of automated tools such as Twinkle and Huggle was subject to scrutiny too. The Foundation's Executive Director Sue Gardner said that she had "spent some time this weekend on New User Contributions on the English Wikipedia, reading the talk pages of new people who'd been trying to make constructive edits. I was trying to imagine the world through their eyes", but also "I used Twinkle to nominate an article for speedy deletion (or something like that, I don't remember exactly) and immediately felt awful about deterring the poor newbie, who was maybe misguided, but not a vandal" and that it had made her "wonder if patrollers find themselves over time starting to dehumanize new people, as a kind of coping mechanism, or just because they feel beleagured. The experience, for me, felt a bit like a videogame. ... To belabour the videogame analogy a little further: Zack Exley and I were talking about new article patrol as being a bit like a first-person shooter, and every now and then a nun or a tourist wanders in front of the rifle [sights]. We need patrollers to be able to identify nuns and tourists, so that they don't get shot :-)" David Gerard asked whether one should "Ban Twinkle? The tool seems to directly encourage problematic behaviour." But several users including Philippe Beaudette (WMF Head of Reader Relations) and Keegan defended the need for automated tools.
The subject was discussed in Sue Gardner's IRC office hours on February 25, too, which also touched on the idea of an article incubator, experiences from the Russian and German Wikipedia's dealing with newbies, and finding better ways of motivating Wikimedia volunteers. Sue Gardner cautioned that "one issue for us though is avoiding dark patterns, and avoiding extrinsic rewards, which are demotivating to intrinsically motivated people. [cf. motivation crowding theory ] ... we know money is out. ... I think extrinsic rewards that work for us and are authentic in our world include things like tenure support letters, or scholarships to Wikimania."
The inherent tension between efforts to improve new user experience and the work of new page / recent change patrollers became visible in an already ongoing activity by the Foundation's Outreach team last week: Its "Account creation improvement project" is currently testing different versions of the "landing page" that greets newbies after they create their account (as mentioned in last week's "News and notes"). One of them, which invited new users to create their user page according to a suggested pattern, generated much confusion and disruption for new page patrollers (discussion). Lennart Guldbrandsson, the Wikimedia fellow responsible for the tests, apologized for the inconvenience and invited feedback on a new page.
A new project called Wiki Guides is currently being set up and inviting participation, stating that "as a community we have many ideas but we’ve been thwarted by too many options and too little data. We want to run a study over the next couple of months to craft strategies, develop new users, and to get data on exactly how our new users are finding their first, and later, experiences on Wikipedia."
Stats on Indian language Wikipedias
On his personal blog, Shijualex has published a statistical report on the Indian language Wikipedias for 2010, based on the data provided by the Foundation at http://stats.wikimedia.org/. The Nepal Bhasa/Newari Wikipedia (new:) had the largest number of articles, but most of its articles were created by bots, like on several other Indian language Wikipedias – a practice criticized by Shijualex, if it is not accompanied by the building of a community. As an extreme example, the Bishnupriya Manipuri Wikipedia (bpy:) was cited, which had more than 24,700 articles in the beginning of 2010 but only grew by 10 articles during the entire year, and does not have a single active user. On the other hand, he observed that "more language wiki communities have started focusing on the quality than on the quantity". A positive example is the Malayalam Wikipedia, which had the most edits per article (30.1) and the most active (90) and highly active (16) editors among Indian language Wikipedias at the end of 2010, and also has a high ratio of new accounts who actually make edits. Shijualex argues that this example shows that "we need to have some good program to convert many registered users to actual wikipedians... The importance of advocacy programs like Wiki workshops, seminars, exhibitions, wikipedia CD, wiki meetups, participating in various programs, and so on can help to popularize wikipedia among the speakers of the respective language."
- Final version of 2010–15 strategic plan published: The Wikimedia Foundation has published the summary of its 2010–15 strategic plan. It had been developed with the input of community members on the strategic planning wiki, led by Foundation consultants. The finalized version had been pre-approved unanimously by the Wikimedia Board of Trustees at its October meeting. The announcement was picked up by ReadWriteWeb ("Wikipedia's Goal: 1 Billion Monthly Visitors by 2015").
- Czech chapter report: The Czech Wikimedia chapter published its report for January 2011 (resuming its reports after a one and a half year hiatus). Among other activities, it mentions a concert on the occasion of Wikipedia's tenth anniversary featuring works by well-known Czech composers, recordings of which will be uploaded to Commons
- Swedish chapter report: The Swedish Wikimedia chapter published its monthly report for January 2011. Among other activities, it mentions the accreditation of a Wikimedia photographer at a state visit of the Estonian president to Sweden (photos on Commons).
- Wikimedia Commons milestone: Wikimedia Commons reached its nine-millionth file last week, following the resumption of the mass upload from the Geograph website (cf. Signpost coverage). Commons is growing at a very fast rate, as this milestone occurred less than two months after the eight-millionth file. The ten-millionth file is expected to be uploaded during the next month.
- Sue Gardner joins new initiative to promote women's participation in open source: The Foundation's Executive Director Sue Gardner has been appointed to the advisory board of the "Ada Initiative", which was recently founded with "the aim of promoting the visibility and participation of women in open-source culture".
- High school students' thoughts about Wikipedia: On her personal blog, User:HstryQT has published a "meaning mapping" showing the thoughts of 33 middle and high-school students about Wikipedia.
- Wikipedia used in Indian Valentine's Day hoax: User:Tinucherian has posted an account of Wikipedia's role in a hoax about the date of the death (in 1931) of Indian revolutionary Bhagat Singh, which was alleged to have been on February 14 (Valentine's Day) in emails and on social media like Twitter and Facebook around that day. Tinucherian notes that the Wikipedia article had been changed to the wrong date even before the confusion spread, possibly part of a deliberate attempt to disseminate the rumor, but was corrected soon afterwards.